Amber Rudd apologises after calling Diane Abbott a 'coloured woman' on the radio

<em>Amber Rudd referred to fellow MP Diane Abbott as a “coloured woman” during an interview on Radio 2 (Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville)</em>
Amber Rudd referred to fellow MP Diane Abbott as a “coloured woman” during an interview on Radio 2 (Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville)

Amber Rudd has apologised to Diane Abbott after referring to her as a “coloured woman” during a radio interview.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said she was “mortified” at her “clumsy language” after sparking outrage by the comment.

During an appearance on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show, Ms Rudd was asked whether online abuse is worse for women.

She replied: “It definitely is worse if you’re a woman and it’s worst of all if you’re a coloured woman.

“I know that Diane Abbott gets a huge amount of abuse and and I think that’s something we need to continue to call out.”

Diane Abbott branded the use of the term ‘coloured’ “outdated, offensive and revealing”.

Ms Rudd later apologised, writing on her own Twitter feed: “Mortified at my clumsy language and sorry to @HackneyAbbott

“My point stands: that no one should suffer abuse because of their race or gender.”

The apology by Ms Rudd, seen as a potential future Tory leadership challenger, comes four months after she returned to the Cabinet having resigned last April as home secretary over the Windrush scandal.

Downing Street said that Theresa May continued to have confidence in Ms Rudd.

A spokeswoman said: “She apologised very swiftly. She has described it herself as clumsy language. That was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Ms Rudd came under fire from fellow MPs, including David Lammy, who said cabinet Minister “should know better”.

He wrote: “Using the term “coloured” to describe anyone who is not white is offensive because it assumes being white is somehow normal or the default.”

Fellow MP Naz Shah said Ms Rudd “should know better”, while Danielle Rowley said: “Amber Rudd undermining an important point about online abuse by referring to Diane Abbott as a “coloured woman” on @BBCRadio2.

“She clearly gets her language from the same bygone era as her abhorrent welfare policies.”

In the interview, Ms Rudd went on to refer to a report by Lord Bew, the then chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, into the trolling of public figures.

“It definitely was the case that women get it more, black and black minority ethnic women get it additionally,” she said.

“It is just a particularly nasty form of attack that focuses on gender and colour.”

Last month, former Labour MP Angela Smith, who quit the party to join the new Independent Group, apologised after appearing to suggest people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds had a “funny tinge”.